Many people think of freelancing as the sexy new thing to do. You’re not tied down to an office desk, you can basically set your own hours and you can work remotely from anywhere in the world.
But there’s a really un-sexy side to freelance work because it comes with no benefits. You’re on your own to provide for health care expenses and to build up a nest egg so you can actually retire someday.
Fortunately, there are options for both health insurance and retirement savings out there for freelancers — if you know where to look.
How freelancers can get benefits just like desk jockeys
Independent contractors and freelancers hold about 20% of jobs in the U.S. economy, according to a new Marist/NPR poll.
Those numbers are only expected to swell over the coming decade. By 2028, NPR estimates that number could rise to 50%.
The reality is that being your own boss brings with it great freedom…but also great responsibility.
For example, there’s no paid time off. You’re on the hook for hospital bills if you get sick. And nobody’s there handing out a company match to help you build your retirement savings.
But that’s doesn’t mean you have to go without those things that other workers enjoy…
Freelancers can have access to health insurance, too
With 57 million independent workers across the country, freelancers are a block of voters that frequently isn’t taken into account when public policy is set in our country.
But there’s a non-profit group called Freelancers Union that pays attention to this under-served population and its needs — especially when it comes to providing high-quality, low-cost health insurance options.
Independent contractors don’t have access to company-sponsored group insurance policies. Recognizing a need for a replacement in the marketplace, Freelancers Union has offered health insurance to its 350,000+ members through a private exchange since 2008.
In 2014, Freelancers Union added retirement, life, liability, dental and disability insurance to its offerings.
And get this: Membership in this nonprofit is free!
When it comes to health insurance, members of Freelancers Union are offered the opportunity to buy a policy during open enrollment period each year. Open enrollment typically starts in November of each year and runs through December.
In certain circumstances, you may be able to find a workaround that allows you to buy insurance after open enrollment closes.
Here’s a list of insurers Freelancers Union partners with:
Freelancers can save for retirement, too!
Having a nest egg isn’t just for people who work in corporate America anymore. As a freelancer, you’ve got to save just as much as the desk jockeys…maybe even more since you won’t have access to any company match!
As an independent contractor, you can set up what’s called a simplified employee pension (SEP). The paperwork to set up a SEP is simple and you can typically open it wherever you want. Money expert Clark Howard likes low-cost investment houses like Vanguard as one possible option.
SEPs work like a traditional IRA in that they offer a current-year deduction by reducing your taxable income. But every penny you contribute will be taxed at retirement.
SEPs also offer flexibility, in that investors can put in nothing in a year or as much as $55,000. That flexibility is key when you consider the feast-or-famine nature of a lot of freelance work!